on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2019 26 Mrz

The Coventry Campbell

von: Ian McCartney Filed under: Blog | TB | 2 Comments

Short albums interest me. Not least because if they take you on a journey, then by the end of that journey you’re aware of distance rather than time. You’ve gone from point A to point B, no matter what speed the motor was running. Short albums are also interesting because of an obvious an implication: that the artist’s only saying what needs said. Same with novels. „Heart of Darkness“ isn’t a thick wedge of pages, but despite its concision, it’s a deep, deep trip. Shortness can definitely sharpen the artistic effect. I’m not sure the same could be said of fine art. But hey, I guess it would be interesting to do survey of paintings that were, say, less than a foot tall and less than three-quarters of a foot wide.

Among my fave short albums are Billy Bragg’s „Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy“ which comes in at a heroic 15 minutes. And „The Coventry Campbell“ by Charcoal Owls, which is a great way to spend 27 minutes.

„The Coventry Campbell“ appeared a couple of years ago, but I only discovered it two weeks ago. I guess it didn’t arrive in blaze of publicity on release, hence why I missed it. But its quiet appearance kind of suits its themes and general mood.

Proceedings kick off with the superbly titled „Hospice Pics“, which appears to centre lyrically on an abundance of card games in a hospice. „Games of whist on tap“ and „pontoon on tap“. There’s a desolate, choked jollity to the piano on this, and an interesting and oblique digression from card games: one inmate, an „ex go-getter“ who hoards letters. The song doesn’t go into the content of the letters except to say that the inmate’s nephew „has got into fascism“.

Next up is a jaunty acoustic number, „Housebound & Proud“. This isn’t a cheery one, lyrically: „I’ll be heading to cemetery if I ever head to town…“ This is a bit poignant as an opening line. I think we’re talking agoraphobia.

This isn’t going to be a track by track review. „The Coventry Campbell“ is an album that demands to be listened to without me trying to guide your thoughts on it. However, I don’t think I can post this without pointing out some other highlights, so…

„Cov Campbell“ – track 3 on the LP refers presumably the establishment that the album is titled for in full. It sounds like a large-ish pub somewhere in the Home Counties. Somewehere just beyond the full thickness of the commuter belt. The song’s chorus (such as it is) consists of the vocalist going „I got barred from the Cov Campbell“. But it’s the way he does it. It’s hilarious. There’s no anger, just broken defiance. And you kind of get the feeling that it’s for the best. The Campbell doesn’t sound too great anyway: „the whole building stinks“, a place where „dry ice rises for the indie kids“.

„Open Wide“ – track 4. Genius. What you have is a slow, plaintive studio-recorded piano (think John Cage) with a vocal that’s been recorded in open space, with wind noises intruding on the mic, the faint rush of a motor vehicle passing every so often, and birdsong. The lyrics hint at some kind of final departure: „We’re sending you away, open wide, on a little holiday. Open wide, open wide. One day you’ll be up there with Branson’s balloons, one day be out of sight“. There is something comedic about „Branson’s balloons“ and it just makes the song all the more achingly melancholic.

A work of genius, and no mistake. If you like Sleaford Mods‘ descriptions of the UK then you may enjoy much of this LP. There’s even a reference to Maplins. Maplins was a discount electronic store. The chain went bust not long after this record was released. And who couldn’t love record with a line like „I observe the fridge filth while the radio complains“. Or „All those shit springs and rubbish summers“.


This entry was posted on Dienstag, 26. März 2019 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Nice to read a familiar voice 😉

  2. Lajla:

    Utagawa Hiroshige will take you on such a journey

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